Today, 20 years ago hundreds, maybe thousands of people had just been killed on the Tiananmen square in Beijing. The Chinese Communist party violently, and strikingly succesfully crushed the students' opposition, and has ever since managed to keep the population quiet with a break neck economic development that makes so many Chinese richer that few remembers those who get poorer.
From an European perspective two questions arise - How did the Chinese regime not fall when all other Communist regimes, save Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea, did? And how comes that today, 20 years after Tiananmen, China is financing the anglosaxon consumer economy? Observers anxiously look to China for the "green shots" that will take us back to yesterday.
(Picture form the protests in Beijing 1989. Creative Commons lincense, found on flickr. Photo by cromacom)
Eastern Europe on the other hand, where the wall fell and poets like Vaclav Havel became presidents, is a sad story these days. Romania gets money from the IMF. Latvia is about to collapse. Lech Walesa has fallen from grace... The Czech president scares West European left and right alike with his neoliberal anti-environmentalism.
Bulgaria is going towards European and parlimentary elections. Not without a few scandals, but it's still way more of a democracy than the richest and happiest Chinese can hope for. Still it's not uncommon to hear from the opposition that ""20 godini ni stigat!", "20 years is enough!" In spite of efforts from the socially minded intelligentsia to remember 1989, like the Goat milk festival, it is not any huge celebration going on here. Most people I speak with are more likely to remind me about 20 years of corruption than about 20 years of freedom...
From where does it come, this feeling that nothing, or almost nothing has changed in the last 20 years in Bulgaria? At the same time China, ruled by the same party and the same people as 30 years ago, have an international influence Sweden, the UK or even the EU could only dream of.
I don't know anything about China. The only thing that I know for sure, is that also there a new generation must have grown up, a generation that doesn't remember the time before 1989. How do they see China 20 years from now?
I don't know much about Bulgaria either, to be frank. But I do belive many Bulgarians underestimate what has happened here during the last 20 years. Could anyone imagine me sitting here writing this 1988? Or 1995?
Today is a day for remembering all those that died in the Tiananmen square. They died for freedom. It is a time to be grateful for the freedom we have, and keep on working for it. The thing about freedom is that you must fight for it every day, over and over again.
Photo by Grant Neufeld. Taken from Creative Commons
The inernet is of course crowded with stories about Tiananmen today. I liked this audioclip with Nikolas Kristof on the New York Times' site.